Porterville girls water polo snaps five-game win streak

Panthers rebound from early losses to go win five straight games before losing to Selma 8-5

PORTERVILLE  – Three years ago, the Porterville Panthers were one of the teams to beat in the Central Section. They ended the season on an 11-game winning streak which culminated in a perfect East Yosemite League record as well as a Division II Valley Championship. They weren’t as successful in 2019 but are back this year with hopes of reclaiming their throne.

They opened the season with back-to-back losses before putting together a five-game winning streak that ended on Friday with a narrow 8-5 loss to Selma. The Panthers have had several close games, which is exactly what head coach Evan Thomas wants at the beginning of the season.

Their closest game so far was last Tuesday’s 9-8 win over Strathmore. Similar to most teams, the Panthers are playing with a number of first year players and they got a bit of extra time at the end of the game. The Spartans were down 9-5 and got within one point with 20 seconds left, but the Panthers were able to hold on for the victory.

“It got a little closer, the girls were a little stressed about that at the end. But I do that kind of stuff sometimes early on in the season so that it helps us later on in the season,” Thomas said.

The next night they had a similar close game situation as they trailed El Diamante 3-0 after the first quarter before going up 4-3 heading into half time. The Miners went ahead 5-4 heading into the final period before being outscored 4-1 as the Panthers went on to win 8-6. According to Thomas, these kinds of games are ideal as he doesn’t want any blowouts in the early parts of the season.

Claire Lee was the lone freshman on varsity during the Panthers 2018 championship run and is now one of the team’s few senior leaders in the pool. She’s joined by fellow senior goalie Ahna Davis, who started on varsity as a sophomore. She plays water polo year-round and it shows in her game as she has been an integral part to the team’s success. After a successful season as a swimmer during the spring, Adelynn Merritt’s skills have transitioned into success as a water polo player. She is one of the leading goal scorers for the Panthers this year and scored five of the team’s nine goals against the Spartans last week.

Porterville played one more game last night against Mt. Whitney after press time and will now prepare for league play. They’ll have a week off before beginning next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. on the road against an undefeated Tulare Western team.

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